Eight-Week Check-Up

[Editor's Note:  we spent most of last week gorging ourselves on hot dogs and freedom, and hope you did too.   Apologies for the late post! -TT]

Do you know what I always forget to schedule? Getting sick. Yep: once again, I forgot to schedule time for that and it came back to bite me.

Let’s talk about life eight weeks post-conference.  Be honest– have you lost the momentum that you built up? I have.  I was moving along and then- BAM! – I hit a brick wall of “why do I bother?”  Where in the heck did that come from?

It would be really easy to crumple into a heap and let the brick wall win.  Or, you can take a deep breath, shake it off and climb over the wall.  If you need help, call out to your #dfwcon Twitter friends – they will help boost you over.

Once you get over the wall, it is time to look at your submission record.  If you submitted in a timely manner after the conference, you should be starting to see responses.  If you haven’t heard anything, check the agent’s website for their most recent estimated response time.  If you are more than a week beyond that time, you may send a polite nudge.

Dear Agent X:

Thank you for requesting (TITLE) at DFW Writers’ Conference 2013.

I submitted (pages or full) via (method used) on (date).  I am following up to confirm that you received my submission.

Please let me know if you did not receive my original submission and I will re-send.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kindly,

Super Writer

Please note that you are only asking them to respond if they did NOT receive your original submission.  If you do not hear from them, you should assume your work is in their queue to be read.  Please resist the urge to ask when they will get to it.  You could “nudge” yourself right into the “no” pile if you aren’t careful.  If you are bothering them now, what will you be like as a client? Play it cool, dude, play it cool.

Perhaps you have received a response and it was a big old “not for me.” Sigh. Maybe you should ask them what they didn’t like? NO! If the stars are aligned correctly, you may get one or two lines of why it didn’t work for them in your rejection.  Resist the urge to argue with the agent over their decision or suggestions. (Yes, people really do that.) If you want to send a cordial note, keep it brief and professional.

Dear Agent X:

Thank you for taking the time to consider (title).

I enjoyed meeting you at DFW Writers’ Conference and I am sorry that my work was not a match for you.  I appreciate your comments and will consider them as I continue to seek a home for my manuscript.

Best Wishes,

Super Writer

Hands and pen

Seriously: it’s a form rejection, not a hand-knit sweater from your Aunt Mabel.  You can skip the thank-you note.

It is worth noting that most agents would prefer you not thank them for a run-of-the-mill rejection.  While you might think that a little courtesy never hurt anyone, isn’t it better to respect the wishes of the agent?  The reasoning is solid: every e-mail that they open and read is time that they are not discovering new authors and getting their current authors sold.  Let’s say that an agent sends out 200 boilerplate rejections in a week (a modest estimate) and half of those respond to the rejection with a short, polite e-mail.  Allowing thirty seconds to open, read, remember who this person is and delete the e-mail, the agent is spending over 3 hours per month on what is essentially junk mail.

How do you know if you should respond to a rejection? If an agent gives you specific comments or suggestions for your manuscript, or refers you to another agent or editor, then a thank-you is appropriate.  If you receive a polite rejection that could apply to any manuscript – well, it probably does. You have received a form letter. Take a few minutes to be sad and angry, then get over it and move on. It is just a part of the process.

There is one scenario we haven’t discussed. The one everyone wants.  You get an offer of representation from one of your submissions.  First, you need to let the agent know that you have other people considering your work and you need some time to make a decision.  Two weeks is a reasonable time to request– it will give you time to contact other agents, give them a week to (hopefully) make an offer and for you to make a final decision.  (If the original agent pressures you to make a decision RIGHT NOW, that is a huge red warning flag.)

Dear Agent X:

Per your request at DFW Writers’ Conference, I submitted (work) to you on (date) for your consideration.

I have recently received an offer of representation and I must make a decision by (7 days from now).  Please let me know if you are still interested in this project.

Sincerely,

Super Writer

Oh, wait! One more scenario - an offer from your dream agent!

Dear Agent X:

Per your request at DFW Writers’ Conference, I submitted (work) to you on (date) for your consideration.

I know your reading time is valuable, so I wanted to let you know I have recently accepted an offer of representation from (Super Agent).  I appreciate your willingness to consider my work and wish the best for you in the future.

Kindly,

Super Agented Writer

What else should you be doing? Writing. Actively participating in critique groups. Moving forward.

See you in August for another check-up.

If you are late to the party, you can see previous check-ups here and here.

Jodi Thompson is a life-long wordsmith who is currently spending her days in the new-to-her fiction arena. You can see more of her disjointed ramblings at http://www.thejodithompson.com/or catch her any Wednesday night at DFW Writers’ Workshop.



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